Knitter in His Natural Habitat
By: Amy Lane | Other books by Amy Lane
Published By: Dreamspinner Press
Published: Nov 14, 2012
ISBN # 9781623800932
Available in: Epub, Mobipocket (.mobi), Adobe Acrobat
Then Stanley does a peculiar thing: he starts to live the life he fell into. Stitch by stitch, he knits his life into something meaningful. Just when he does, Johnny, the store’s new delivery boy, walks in.
Johnny is like no one Stanley has ever met: he doesn’t believe in quickies in the bathroom and has a soft spot for theater and opera. There has to be a catch. When Johnny’s dark past comes back to haunt them, Stanley realizes how much he loves his cushy life in the yarn store—but he’ll give it all up to keep the man who makes his ordinary life extraordinary.
Watch, as the Innocent Crafter Chooses His Path
STANLEY missed Craw ever so.
It wasn’t like he’d been in love with the big goober—no. But he’d liked Craw’s visits, as terse as the guy had usually been. They broke up Stanley’s job somewhat, and that’s always nice, even if you love your job. And better yet, those visits meant Stanley got laid, and, as Stanley sat at the counter and peered moodily into the mid-November slush, it turned out Stanley hadn’t been doing a lot of that without Craw.
He couldn’t really put a finger on when it had happened, either.
Stanley Shulze had arrived in Boulder a little more than ten years before with a fresh-off-the-turnip-truck business degree, an art minor, and a job as a yarn buyer. God, hadn’t he been a deprived child in the bowels of fucking Nebransas, because Boulder had seemed like a bustling metropolis of gay. He’d gone to the clubs, gotten fucked by anything that cared, gone down on a few more that hadn’t, and had enjoyed the hell out of himself.
When had the novelty worn off?
He couldn’t put a finger on it. He certainly hadn’t started off exclusive when he’d bent over for Craw. He’d seen the guy—a big giant of a bear, covered in curly auburn hair—walking through the doorway of the yarn store and thought “Hello big daddy bear man! Now wouldn’t it be lovely if you were—” And then he’d seen Craw checking out his best ass. The tight, bouncy little bubble one, right on top of his thighs, and Stanley had been in….
Well, not love. But certainly in enough of a dither to grab a lubed condom out of his messenger bag, lock the door between rushes, and follow Craw to the bathroom to proposition him.
Craw had shrugged, said, “Well, if you’re fucking serious,” and a tradition had begun.
And five years later, Craw had met a nice boy and settled down, and it had ended. And Stanley was left wondering—when had bending over for Craw become the be-all and end-all of his love life?
He wasn’t sure. Sometime in there, it had gotten too bothersome to go out to clubs and find a hook-up that he’d maybe had before and then had to forget. Sometime in there, the music got too loud, the kids got too young, and the scorn for an aging fag got too hard to bear. All he knew was that the Friday night after Craw had called it quits, Stanley had gone to Wilde’s, his favorite meat market, and had met… well, twenty-one year old children, mostly.
They’d been pretty—ohmygod, was it possible they were getting prettier?—but their conversation?
Stanley looked encouragingly at the young man and crinkled his eyes, which were blue with dark lashes and he’d spent hours looking in the mirror trying to make them alluring. “Yes, sweetie?” he asked, batting those dark lashes.
The young man—tall, with a heavy chest and heavy thighs, who looked like he could probably break Stanley in two if he felt like it—had smiled sweetly and said, “Dude,” while nodding his head up and down and taking in Stanley’s trim little (five feet seven) body. He seemed to have earned an expression of approval, and Stanley tried to make his smile extra special.
“So, would you like to buy me a drink?” he articulated.
The kid nodded, his jaw slack and loose. “Oh yeah. Dude.”
Stanley had taken a deep breath and realized that blowjobs were never free and a good primal pound in the ass was gonna cost him a fortune in self-respect. Oh well, he’d been living on credit that way for years.
“Awesome. I’ll have an Amaretto sour, if that’s okay.”
The kid blinked and wrinkled his nose. “Dude?”
“Don’t worry, sweetie. If you order one, Victor will make it.” Stanley looked over at the bartender, who was everything you wanted in a gay-bar-bartender: tattoos, bandana over his bald head, no shirt over his solid body, leather chaps, chains around the groin, and all!
Victor rolled his eyes at Jethro and slid Stanley his sour, and Stanley simpered up at his pretty, dumb friend and tried to seal the deal.
“So,” he said, trying for conversation. “Do you go to school around here?”
Jethro looked down a little and blushed. “Construction,” he mumbled, and Stanley saw it, and kicked himself for seeing it.
“Don’t be embarrassed,” he said sweetly, touching the back of the kid’s hand with his own. “We do what we’re good at, right sweetie?”
The kid looked at Stanley mournfully. “And what are you good at?” he asked, and Stanley almost gave him the easy answer only. But instead he said, “Selling yarn to little old ladies,” before he said, “and giving blowjobs.”
And of all things, that lit the kid’s face. “Do you knit?” he asked, enthralled. “Because my mom knits and that’s cool!”
Stanley blinked. “You’re not impressed by the blowjob even a little?”
The kid shrugged and looked around. “All these guys give blowjobs,” he said matter-of-factly. “And I’m hung like a donkey, so I get lots of ass. But you didn’t even answer the question. Do you knit?”
Stanley shrugged. “A little. You have to, if you’re going to help sell the yarn, right?”
The kid’s eyes got really big and moony. “Would you knit me a sweater?” he asked, and Stanley’s mouth fell open. He knit garter stitch. Plain garter stitch. Back and forth, repeat ad infinitum. And here he was, his first visit to a meat market in a year, and this kid wanted to know if he would knit?
“Oh Buttercup! No one is that good a fuck, okay?”
The kid considered and then jerked his chin in the general vicinity of the back privacy rooms, where what you did in there might not be seen overtly, but it was really not anything near private. “Well, I might be. Want to give a try?”
Stanley pursed his lips. “Yeah, sure. But don’t pull my hair—my hair plugs are just starting to look natural, okay?”
The kid patted the top of Stanley’s blond head—which he could do easily since he was well over six feet tall. “Yeah, okay.”
Stanley looked despairingly at the little darkened cubicles and realized the bathroom in the yarn store where he’d been doing Craw had at least been cleaned once a day and had air freshener and disinfectant and… young Jethro put his hand on Stanley’s shoulder.
“Kid,” Stanley shouted, because the music gave an extra loud throb at that moment, “what’s your name?”
The kid traced a line down the side of Stanley’s neck and nibbled his ear. “I’ve got a condom,” he said, close enough for Stanley to hear him. “It’s lubed. Do you care?”
“Well, if I’m gonna knit you a sweater, you’d better make me care,” Stanley grumbled.
A rather sweaty fifteen minutes later, Stanley leaned against the wall of the privacy cubicle and pulled out some wet wipes from a box provided for guest convenience. He wiped off his stomach and his hands, which were wet from come, and turned around to see the kid tying off the condom. Together they threw away their trash and Stanley looked at the kid and shrugged.
“You’re right, Junior; I don’t think names are necessary. But on the downside, I ain’t knitting you shit if I don’t know your name.”
THAT had been about three months before Thanksgiving. The Tuesday before Thanksgiving, Craw had brought his “nice boy” to visit while he made his delivery, which depressed the hell out of Stanley.
Ben really was a nice boy. He was funny, he was acerbic, he was fully aware that his catch and Stanley’s former steady lay was a walking communication dysfunction, and he looked at Craw with such yearning that even Stanley had to admit he would have felt bad if he’d gotten between them. Oh for fuck’s sake, didn’t his jealousy even function anymore?
The two of them took turns baiting Craw (apparently Ben had been in the dark about Stanley until Craw pulled the truck up to the curb—that was always good for a few chuckles) and then he’d turned that sunshine-poet’s face with its hipster’s stubble toward Stanley and said, “So, do you knit?”
Stanley had gaped. Seriously? He was getting this from Jethro and from the ex’s new squeeze? What in the fuck?
“Stanley doesn’t knit,” Craw grunted, walking by with a box neither Ben nor Stanley was bothering to help him with. Big dummy. Bringing the new squeeze to meet the old lay. How desperately tacky. Oh, yeah, sure, the guy called it being up front, but Stanley knew unintentional emotional punishment when it was flogging him on the tush. Stanley was so put out he didn’t even bother to contradict Craw about his knitting, although, by Craw’s standards, a little bit of garter stitch didn’t count.
“You don’t knit?” Ben said, surprised. “Even I’m starting to knit. I mean….” Ben gestured around the store, and Stanley rolled his eyes. It was a huge chunk of floor space, and he’d done it up right, with smooth black lacquered cabinets artfully overflowing with yarn sorted by brand, type, and color, plush couches set at feng shui angles, cream colored (stain resistant) carpeting, and mirrors on the available walls next to the windows to make the place seem even bigger than it already was.
Stanley looked again and saw the yarn this time and not the floor space. “Yeah,” he said, pulling up one corner of his upper lip. “I guess there is yarn.”
Ben shook his head. “Okay—I’ve known the guy for three months—I’m telling ya—the yarn is the only thing he sees. And I’m starting to get tunnel vision that way too.”
Stanley looked at Craw, coming back with another box, and then at Ben, who was just so sunshiny sugary sweet that Stanley wanted to eat him up with whipped cream and chocolate, and then saw the way Craw looked at Ben when Ben didn’t know he was looking.
“Yarn,” he said, looking around his place of business again. “Go figure.”
See, the thing is, Stanley had a business major with an art minor—he’d been going to buy and sell art. He’d just taken the job in Boulder as sort of a stop-gap bill-paying measure. Sort of an interim thing to put on his resume. Because those sorts of jobs are a dime a dozen when you’re sending your resume to everyone between Boulder and New York, right?
Yeah. That had been ten years ago. He was still here. He had his regulars, he had his club scene, he had his neighbors—and fuck him if he didn’t have two cats and a wild attack ficus.
Oh hells. Stanley had a life here, one it would sort of piss him off to leave. He hadn’t sent his resume anywhere in years, and quite frankly? He had no desire to. He liked Alice, his boss. Although he mostly worked in Ewe’ll Love This, the fact was, she owned four different craft boutiques around Boulder and Fort Collins. He got to buy for and design the floor space for all of them, and it was fun. It wasn’t acquiring art for a Vegas casino (’cause those people had cash) and it wasn’t designing for Cosmo, but it played into his strengths and, well….
He was damned good at picking yarn, yarn that would be fashionable or yarn that would be trendy, yarn that would be practical and yarn that would wear well. If he was going to make his life like this, maybe he should get his hands dirty. (Of course, the allure of yarn in the first place was that you could get your hands dirty while keeping them reasonably clean.) And why not? He’d spent the last eleven years pushing fiber on little old ladies (and a surprising number of trendy young ones). Wasn’t it about time he became a user too? God, it beat the hell out of amyl nitrate—he’d had at least three regrettable encounters in college due to that little chemical nightmare. It’s not like yarn could be any worse!
And besides. Craw had left him for a man who wanted to learn to knit. The sweet boy at the club had thought his one interesting feature was that he sort of knew how to knit. Knitting was a sign of commitment; Stanley knew enough about the craft to know a project took some devotion and had some permanence.
Maybe, if Stanley learned how to knit, he’d figure out how to have some of that in his own life.
So, the day before Thanksgiving, he cashed out two skeins of yarn and some nice square-shank knitting needles to make himself a scarf.
Now, Stanley knew his own limitations. He assumed he’d be interested in knitting like he’d been (thus far) interested in men. He’d see something shiny, try it out, and then think he could probably do better in the next privacy booth. So he started out with big, thick yarn and big, thick, phallic needles (he liked the squareness in the shank—although that did make him do some online research to see if that was a trend in sex toys, because, hey, something he didn’t have would be nice! He did find a few plugs in that shape, which he ordered. Why not?)
And he made the yarn something… rich. Yummy. Decadent. A deep, flashy, lipstick red. Now Stanley himself usually looked good in cool colors: crisp navies, charcoal grays, ice greens. But that’s not what he wanted to wear. So he picked this deep, flashy, candy-apple, hot-car, full-lipped, I’m-a-superstar red, because he figured, if he was going to get his granny on, he was going to do it like the look-at-me attention whore he was.
He remembered his basics, and the night before Thanksgiving, while the curried lamb dish he was making for his boss’s pot luck the next day simmered, he sat down with the some previously DVR’d episodes of Top Chef and Project Runway, and cast on.
For the first episode, he cursed his own stupidity, struggled with the yarn, struggled with the needles, and felt like an idiot douchebag. He got up, tended to his food for a moment, poured himself a glass of wine (to go with his whine, he supposed), and picked the red in case he got really wasted and spilled the wine on the hand-wash-only merino/cashmere blend.
After the first glass of wine, the repetitive movement became soothing.
After his second glass of wine (and after he, thankfully, took the food off the stove and prepped it to take to the early dinner the next day), the zen of the color started to seep into his hands.
He never made it to his third glass of wine. He became totally enthralled, sitting there, knitting, watching the skank ho designing the dress try to possibly squeeze one last millimeter of non-boob out of the spider-monkey of a model. Van Gogh, his manic-depressive black cat, curled up in a little ball by his shoulder and Matisse, his big, surly orange tom, was spread out unapologetically on his lap, and their combined weight pretty much arc-welded his ass to the couch. But that was okay; in fact, it was perfect. It was like the permanence he’d been seeking had found him, just by gluing him to the couch and making his activity so soothing he didn’t want to go anywhere.
He finished the first skein of yarn that night, and when he woke up, he realized he hadn’t done half bad. He liked it so much he put it in his messenger bag, so he’d have something to do while Alice’s redneck son was monopolizing the television. It was so unfair. Everyone else there—Alice, her daughter Candace, her daughter-in-law Amanda—they all wanted to watch the Thin Man marathon, every year. But no—not Jed. Jed was going to by golly watch the fucking football games, and even trying to imagine those boys naked didn’t make that game any more fun for Stanley, who was not a fan of BDSM even when it was the fun stuff, with the leather. But Mandy was sort of a doormat, and Alice was trying to have peace with her children one day a year since their father got them for Christmas, yes, even into adulthood, and waging that sort of war in someone else’s house was just déclassé.
The curried lamb was a success—even more so because the curry had a chance to settle in and work up some kick. As a traditional Thanksgiving side dish, well, maybe it didn’t blend, but Alice and Candace both kissed him on the cheek and told him thank you, and everyone but Jed (who hated him), including Mandy, used it as an alternative to gravy on the mashed potatoes when they ran out of rice.
Jed, for his part, just sat at the end of the table and glared and muttered things under his breath about pansy food, and Stanley ignored him. The fact was, he hadn’t been welcome in his parents’ home for years—not even to attend their funeral. The story was so old by now—and Stanley was a big fan of the “It Gets Better” movement, because he was certainly glad to be free of that mausoleum—that he couldn’t bear repeating it, even for the sympathy. But sometimes, sometimes, he did miss the sound of his mother’s voice, with his sister in counterpoint, singing the doxology over their meal, which, as far as he knew was a tradition that was just the Shulzes’ with their good old Lutheran upbringing.
But Alice? She more than made up for it. Alice was one of those hard-nosed broads—with a core of solid chocolate. She cut her graying hair short and didn’t wear make-up and didn’t do battle with time so much as just turn her back on the bitch and go about her business. She wore jeans and a nice sweatshirt to prepare dinner and told Candace, her ultra-feminine daughter, that she looked lovely in a winter-white cashmere dress with red trimming. Candace did, too. She’d piled her fiery red (dyed) hair up on the top of her head and left tendrils down and painted her lips almost the exact pop-my-cherry color of Stanley’s scarf.
Stanley adored them both. When Stanley had first started working for Ewe’ll Love This, Alice would bring her children into the store while they consulted. Jed had been sixteen, surly, scornful, and obviously a carbon copy of his father, whom Stanley had met once and it had been more than enough. Candace, on the other hand, had been fourteen and shy. Beautiful—God, even through the pimples and the gangliness and the braces and the bad hair, you could still see the snub little nose and the bee-sting mouth and the heart shape to her freckled little face—but shy. Terribly, terribly shy.
Stanley had adored her. He’d ramped up his camp and called her honey and mooned over the boys in the fashion magazines to make her giggle. She reminded him of his own sisters, before he’d come out and they’d hated him like the rest of the family, except her mother had told her kids straight out that Stanley was gay and they could like it or they could keep their mouths shut about it. Candace had chosen to like it, and Stanley had chosen to love her with all his gay little heart.
Eleven years later, she was this amazing, fabulous woman who was studying art as an artist and not a buyer, way out in New York, which Stanley had wasted his youth thinking of as a metropolis just waiting to discover him. He very possibly could have been bitter that Boulder had been here all along, just waiting for Stanley to discover it, except Candace was his darling, and when she had gone off to college and begun to make a name for herself, he’d had a very hazy, wine-soaked conversation with God about giving her all the success he’d never achieved. He wanted her to have it. He wanted her to shine. He was content to sit at her mother’s table during the holidays and spice up her time with curried lamb.
But he wasn’t sure when she’d grown older than him. That hadn’t been part of the deal.
They’d lingered over wine after the dinner clean-up, and she’d smiled at him over her wineglass.
“Stanley,” she said, only a little buzzed, because she was a lady like her mother. “How is it you never bring anyone by for Thanksgiving? Or over Easter? Or for the summer barbecues? I am starting to worry about you!”
Stanley looked back at her, touched to his core and trying not to tear up because Jed would only call him a big flaming mo. “Darling, don’t worry about me. I’m learning to knit,” he said proudly, and Alice was suddenly at his elbow, with some leftover turkey and gravy (good, he needed some carbs and protein to sop this buzz!) and complete attention.
“Oh Stanley,” she said, sounding sober, “that’s wonderful!”
Candace grimaced. “Mom—it’s knitting. It’s no big….”
Stanley knew he had sort of a sappy smile on his face. “It’s all the secrets of the universe wrapped up in one Zen little ball of string,” he said happily. “Everything I thought was missing in my life is twisted up in fiber and the magic stitch.”
He was aware Candace and her mother were exchanging rather alarmed glances.
“Stanley,” Alice said, her voice getting as gentle as it possibly ever did, “I love the craft. I mean, it’s why I started the store, but do you really think you should be pinning the secrets of the universe on—”
“Stanley, you need a man.”
“Candace!” Alice was scandalized, but Stanley, he understood.
“No,” he said sadly. “Don’t you see? I don’t get a man. I’ve squandered my golden years being a one-night mantrap. I need to own up, Candy darling.” He patted her hand serenely. “You get to go out and be fabulous. I’ve got the cats, the ficus, and now I’ve got the knitting. These things will fill my time until I shuffle into the sunset. I am content.”
“You’re thirty-six!” Candace squawked, and Stanley held his hand to his chest, mortally wounded.
“Thirty-five!” he corrected. “But that’s not the point!”
“Oh, that’s exactly the point,” Alice muttered, taking a gulp of her daughter’s wine. “Stanley, honey, I’m glad you’ve embraced knitting, I really am. It’ll make you even better at your job, and, quite frankly, I was starting to think you had the morals of a con man. It’s good to know you don’t. But maybe don’t embrace celibacy just yet. Maybe, you know, just embrace a new you.”
Stanley looked dispiritedly at his wine. “It’s better than the old me, I guess.”
Alice was a chunky woman, but that’s what made the arm around his shoulder feel solid and real. She kissed his temple. “The only thing wrong with the old you is that you treated dating like finding a vibrator on legs. There’s more to finding a life mate than that, honey. I mean, Candace’s father fucked like a god—”
“But he fucked everything liked that, and who wants that kind of competition? Certainly not someone worthwhile, Stanley. Maybe the knitting is a good thing. You can practice project monogamy and then move on to the human kind.”
“Oh Jesus.” Candace’s eyes were wide, and she stood up and started searching the counter for the other bottle of wine. Stanley didn’t have the heart to tell her he was pretty sure he’d killed it while he’d been helping her mother with dinner. “Mom…. God, maybe monogamy just isn’t Stanley’s way—”
“It could be,” Stanley said pathetically. His messenger bag was hanging over the back of his chair, and he found himself suddenly needing the comfort of his yarn very much. “It could be,” he repeated, getting out his scarf. He started working the row with dogged determination. The wine was starting to recede, and he was with his people now, his darling, beautiful Candace and her mother, who had been trying to fill in for his mother since he’d applied for the job. “I just… I just need to find the right project,” he said, thinking this scarf was too short and he was going to need another skein of yarn. That was good. The scarf could go on and on and on and on, and it could be the harlot-red banner of shame that wrapped him up and kept him warm when the nights grew lonely and cold.
Candace managed to find another bottle of wine—Chablis this time; it had been hiding in the fridge—and Alice continued to lean her head on his shoulder soothingly.
“Stanley, you know, I was pretty sure when I divorced their father that I was going to be alone my entire life and I’d never find another man. You know what I discovered?”
Stanley kissed the top of her silver-gray head. “That you’re a lesbian?” Jean hadn’t been able to make it for Thanksgiving—she had her own kids. The good news was that her kids were there for Christmas, so Stanley got to have family at both the major holidays. Who needed to bring home a boyfriend? It also helped that Jed didn’t have to see proof that his mother was everything he professed to hate; he got to pretend she was still his mommy and needed to wait on him, hand and foot, along with his wife. Stanley had never been puzzled by the idea that parents as straight and narrow as his had gone and thrown themselves a Stanley. Nice people like Alice were squirting out assholes like Jed every day.
“Well, yeah, that,” Alice conceded. “But you know how I discovered that?”
Candace choked on her Chablis. “If you say ‘masturbation’, I am never coming home again, ever.”
Stanley grinned at her, thrilled at how quick she’d gone from sophisticated glamour girl to horrified teenager. “Oh baby, you know she lives to make you spit-take. Let mummy finish her story and we can have a lovely game of hand-n-foot over pie.”
Candace rolled her eyes and glared at him indulgently. “You know, Stanley, you’re still the best father I’ve ever had.” Jed gave a cheer from the living room and pumped his fist. The three of them looked over to where Amanda was sitting next to him, looking longingly at the table. Amanda was tiny and mousy, with dark hair and sloe eyes, and Stanley thought if Jed ever actually laid a hand on her, he would possibly throw a punch for the first time in his life. “And older brother,” Candace added with a sympathetic glance at Amanda, “rolled into one. But that doesn’t mean you can tell me not to be freaked out by my mother’s sex life.”
Stanley started to giggle. “You’re just lucky your mother has a sex life. My parents spawned us in the mud puddle behind the house. I was the egg that got stepped on and that’s why I’m gay.” He turned to Alice again. “Finish your story, darling. You were trying to give me hope about my love life, and I need some.”
“You weren’t the egg that got stepped on,” Alice muttered. “You were the egg that had the good sense to move out from under the fucking horse.” She finished grouching and sat up, suddenly looking as sober as Stanley would have to be before he drove home in the snow. “Anyway, no. There was masturbation because I was alone, but that’s not what I discovered. What I discovered was that I liked myself. I was alone, and it sucked, but I wasn’t a bad person to be with. You’re not a bad person to be with, Stanley. You can keep sex in your toy drawer for a while, until you find someone you wouldn’t mind meeting us for Thanksgiving.”
There was another cheer from the living room, and Alice grimaced. “Or lunch. Tell you what. You name a non-holiday time, and I’ll fly Candace out and we can meet Mr. Hasn’t Walked Through The Door, okay? That way, we won’t let Jed scare him off.”
Well, why not? Stanley laughed a little and made his next stitch. Some of the wine was wearing off, and he was starting to crave pie. “Why not,” he said grandly, thinking the odds of that happening were as thin as the odds of him actually becoming a knitter for life. “Darling, if that happens, I’ll fly Candace out.”
“As if,” Alice grunted. “I know what you make, Stanley, and it ain’t that impressive.”
Stanley shrugged. “After you give me a raise.”
And then there was pie!